The Fireside Chats of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Reemployment in industry is proceeding rapidly. Government spending
was in large part responsible for keeping industry going and
putting it in a position to make this reemployment possible.
Government orders were the backlog of heavy industry; government
wages turned over and over again to make consumer purchasing power
and to sustain every merchant in the community. Businessmen with
their businesses, small and large, had to be saved. Private
enterprise is necessary to any nation which seeks to maintain the
democratic form of government. In their case, just as certainly as
in the case of drought-stricken farmers, government spending has

Government having spent wisely to save it, private industry begins
to take workers off the rolls of the government relief program.
Until this administration we had no free employment service, except
in a few states and cities. Because there was no unified employment
service, the worker, forced to move as industry moved, often
travelled over the country, wandering after jobs which seemed
always to travel just a little faster than he did. He was often
victimized by fraudulent practices of employment clearing houses,
and the facts of employment opportunities were at the disposal
neither of himself nor of the employer.

In 1933 the United States Employment Service was created–a
cooperative state and federal enterprise, through which the federal
government matches dollar for dollar the funds provided by the
states for registering the occupations and skills of workers and
for actually finding jobs for these registered workers in private
industry. The federal-state cooperation has been splendid. Already
employment services are operating in thirty-two states, and the
areas not covered by them are served by the federal government.

We have developed a nationwide service with seven hundred district
offices and one thousand branch offices, thus providing facilities
through which labor can learn of jobs available and employers can
find workers.

Last spring I expressed the hope that employers would realize their
deep responsibility to take men off the relief rolls and give them
jobs in private enterprise. Subsequently I was told by many
employers that they were not satisfied with the information
available concerning the skill and experience of the workers on the
relief rolls. On August 25th I allocated a relatively small sum to
the employment service for the purpose of getting better and more
recent information in regard to those now actively at work on
W.P.A. Projects–information as to their skills and previous
occupations–and to keep the records of such men and women up-to-
date for maximum service in making them available to industry.
Tonight I am announcing the allocation of two and a half million
dollars more to enable the Employment Service to make an even more
intensive search then it has yet been equipped to make, to find
opportunities in private employment for workers registered with it.

Tonight I urge the workers to cooperate with and take full
advantage of this intensification of the work of the Employment
Service. This does not mean that there will be any lessening of our
efforts under our W.P.A. and P.W.A. and other work relief programs
until all workers have decent jobs in private employment at decent
wages. We do not surrender our responsibility to the unemployed. We
have had ample proof that it is the will of the American people
that those who represent them in national, state and local
government should continue as long as necessary to discharge that
responsibility. But it does mean that the government wants to use
resource to get private work for those now employed on government
work, and thus to curtail to a minimum the government expenditures
for direct employment.

Tonight I ask employers, large and small, throughout the nation, to
use the help of the state and Federal Employment Service whenever
in the general pick-up of business they require more workers.

Tomorrow is Labor Day. Labor Day in this country has never been a
class holiday. It has always been a national holiday. It has never
had more significance as a national holiday than it has now. In
other countries the relationship of employer and employee has been
more or less been accepted as a class relationship not readily to
be broken through. In this country we insist, as an essential of
the American way of life, that the employer-employee relationship
should be one between free men and equals. We refuse to regard
those who work with hand or brain as different from or inferior to
those who live from their property. We insist that labor is
entitled to as much respect as property. But our workers with hand
and brain deserve more than respect for their labor. They deserve
practical protection in the opportunity to use their labor at a
return adequate to support them at a decent and constantly rising
standard of living, and to accumulate a margin of security against
the inevitable vicissitudes of life.

The average man must have that twofold opportunity if we are to
avoid the growth of a class-conscious society in this country.

There are those who fail to read both the signs of the times and
American history. They would try to refuse the worker any effective
power to bargain collectively, to earn a decent livelihood and to
acquire security. It is those short-sighted ones, not labor, who
threaten this country with that class dissension which in other
countries has led to dictatorship and the establishment of fear and
hatred as the dominant emotions in human life.

All American workers, brain workers and manual workers alike, and
all the rest of us whose well-being depends on theirs, know that
our needs are one in building an orderly economic democracy in
which all can profit and in which all can be secure from the kind
of faulty economic direction which brought us to the brink of
common ruin seven years ago.

There is no cleavage between white collar workers and manual
workers, between artists and artisans, musicians and mechanics,
lawyers and accountants and architects and miners.

Tomorrow, Labor Day, belongs to all of us. Tomorrow, Labor Day,
symbolizes the hope of all Americans. Anyone who calls it a class
holiday challenges the whole concept of American democracy.

The Fourth of July commemorates our political freedom–a freedom
which without economic freedom is meaningless indeed. Labor Day
symbolizes our determination to achieve an economic freedom for the
average man which will give his political freedom reality.

March 9, 1937.

Last Thursday I described in detail certain economic problems which
everyone admits now face the nation. For the many messages which
have come to me after that speech, and which it is physically
impossible to answer individually, I take this means of saying
“thank you.”

Tonight, sitting at my desk in the White House, I make my first
radio report to the people in my second term of office.

I am reminded of that evening in March, four years ago, when I made
my first radio report to you. We were then in the midst of the
great banking crisis.

Soon after, with the authority of the Congress, we asked the nation
to turn over all of its privately held gold, dollar for dollar, to
the government of the United States.

Today’s recovery proves how right that policy was.

But when, almost two years later, it came before the Supreme Court
its constitutionality was upheld only by a five-to-four vote. The
change of one vote would have thrown all the affairs of this great
Nation back into hopeless chaos. In effect, four Justices ruled
that the right under a private contract to exact a pound of flesh
was more sacred than the main objectives of the Constitution to
establish an enduring Nation.

In 1933 you and I knew that we must never let our economic system
get completely out of joint again–that we could not afford to take
the risk of another great depression.

We also became convinced that the only way to avoid a repetition of
those dark days was to have a government with power to prevent and
to cure the abuses and the inequalities which had thrown that
system out of joint.

We then began a program of remedying those abuses and
inequalities–to give balance and stability to our economic
system–to make it bomb-proof against the causes of 1929.

Today we are only part-way through that program–and recovery is
speeding up to a point where the dangers of 1929 are again becoming
possible, not this week or month perhaps, but within a year or two.

National laws are needed to complete that program. Individual or
local or state effort alone cannot protect us in 1937 any better
than ten years ago.

It will take time–and plenty of time–to work out our remedies
administratively even after legislation is passed. To complete our
program of protection in time, therefore, we cannot delay one
moment in making certain that our national government has power to
carry through.

Four years ago action did not come until the eleventh hour. It was
almost too late.

If we learned anything from the depression we will not allow
ourselves to run around in new circles of futile discussion and
debate, always postponing the day of decision.

The American people have learned from the depression. For in the
last three national elections an overwhelming majority of them
voted a mandate that the Congress and the President begin the task
of providing that protection–not after long years of debate, but

The courts, however, have cast doubts on the ability of the elected
Congress to protect us against catastrophe by meeting squarely our
modern social and economic conditions.

We are at a crisis in our ability to proceed with that protection.
It is a quiet crisis. There are no lines of depositors outside
closed banks. But to the far-sighted it is far-reaching in its
possibilities of injury to America.

I want to talk with you very simply about the need for present
action in this crisis–the need to meet the unanswered challenge of
one-third of a Nation ill-nourished, ill-clad, ill-housed.

Last Thursday I described the American form of government as a
three horse team provided by the Constitution to the American
people so that their field might be plowed. The three horses are,
of course, the three branches of government–the Congress, the
Executive and the courts. Two of the horses are pulling in unison
today; the third is not. Those who have intimated that the
President of the United States is trying to drive that team,
overlook the simple fact that the President, as Chief Executive, is
himself one of the three horses.

It is the American people themselves who are in the driver’s seat.

It is the American people themselves who want the furrow plowed.

It is the American people themselves who expect the third horse to
pull in unison with the other two.

I hope that you have re-read the Constitution of the United States
in these past few weeks. Like the Bible, it ought to be read again
and again.

It is an easy document to understand when you remember that it was
called into being because the Articles of Confederation under which
the original thirteen States tried to operate after the Revolution
showed the need of a national government with power enough to
handle national problems. In its Preamble, the Constitution states
that it was intended to form a more perfect Union and promote the
general welfare; and the powers given to the Congress to carry out
those purposes can be best described by saying that they were all
the powers needed to meet each and every problem which then had a
national character and which could not be met by merely local

But the framers went further. Having in mind that in succeeding
generations many other problems then undreamed of would become
national problems, they gave to the Congress the ample broad powers
“to levy taxes. . . and provide for the common defense and general
welfare of the United States.”

That, my friends, is what I honestly believe to have been the clear
and underlying purpose of the patriots who wrote a federal
constitution to create a national government with national power,
intended as they said, “to form a more perfect union. . . for
ourselves and our posterity.”

For nearly twenty years there was no conflict between the Congress
and the Court. Then Congress passed a statute which, in 1803, the
Court said violated an express provision of the Constitution. The
Court claimed the power to declare it unconstitutional and did so
declare it. But a little later the Court itself admitted that it
was an extraordinary power to exercise and through Mr. Justice
Washington laid down this limitation upon it: “It is but a decent
respect due to the wisdom, the integrity and the patriotism of the
legislative body, by which any law is passed, to presume in favor
of its validity until its violation of the Constitution is proved
beyond all reasonable doubt.”

But since the rise of the modern movement for social and economic
progress through legislation, the Court has more and more often and
more and more boldly asserted a power to veto laws passed by the
Congress and state legislatures in complete disregard of this
original limitation.

In the last four years the sound rule of giving statutes the
benefit of all reasonable doubt has been cast aside. The Court has
been acting not as a judicial body, but as a policy-making body.

When the Congress has sought to stabilize national agriculture, to
improve the conditions of labor, to safeguard business against
unfair competition, to protect our national resources, and in many
other ways, to serve our clearly national needs, the majority of
the Court has been assuming the power to pass on the wisdom of
these acts of the Congress–and to approve or disapprove the public
policy written into these laws.

That is not only my accusation. It is the accusation of most
distinguished justices of the present Supreme Court. I have not the
time to quote to you all the language used by dissenting justices
in many of these cases. But in the case holding the Railroad
Retirement Act unconstitutional, for instance, Chief Justice Hughes
said in a dissenting opinion that the majority opinion was “a
departure from sound principles,” and placed “an unwarranted
limitation upon the commerce clause.” And three other justices
agreed with him.

In the case of holding the A.A.A. unconstitutional, Justice Stone
said of the majority opinion that it was a “tortured construction
of the Constitution.” And two other justices agreed with him.

In the case holding the New York Minimum Wage Law unconstitutional,
Justice Stone said that the majority were actually reading into the
Constitution their own “personal economic predilections,” and that
if the legislative power is not left free to choose the methods of
solving the problems of poverty, subsistence, and health of large
numbers in the community, then “government is to be rendered
impotent.” And two other justices agreed with him.

In the face of these dissenting opinions, there is no basis for the
claim made by some members of the Court that something in the
Constitution has compelled them regretfully to thwart the will of
the people.

In the face of such dissenting opinions, it is perfectly clear
that, as Chief Justice Hughes has said, “We are under a
Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”

The Court in addition to the proper use of its judicial functions
has improperly set itself up as a third house of the Congress–a
super-legislature, as one of the justices has called it–reading
into the Constitution words and implications which are not there,
and which were never intended to be there.

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